“JERICHO” RETROSPECT: (1.02) “Fallout”
It just occurred to me that this second episode of the CBS television series, “JERICHO” was aptly named. In a way (1.02) “Fallout” perfectly described the situation from the series’ first episode, (1.01) “Pilot: The First Seventeen Hours”.
The previous episode ended with the western Kansas community shaken by the sight of an atomic mushroom and news that two U.S. cities had been devastated by nuclear explosions . . . and their sheriff and one of the deputies murdered by two escaped convicts on their way to prison. “Fallout” picks up the following morning with Jericho schoolteacher Emily Sullivan trying to hitchhike her way back to Jericho, when her stalled SUV prevents her from reaching the airport to pick up her fiance. She finally receives a ride from a police cruiser being driven by two deputy sheriffs. With the car low on gas, Emily suggests they seek gasoline at the farm of Stanley and Bonnie Richmond. By the time they reach their destination, she realizes that her two saviors are not lawmen, but possibly dangerous criminals.
Back in Jericho, the town’s new resident, Robert Hawkins, hints of the possibility of radioactive fallout from the Denver bombing, in the incoming rainstorm threatening Jericho. He suggests that the citizens might have to either seek shelter in their homes or the town’s two fallout shelters. While the Greens, Hawkins and businessman Gray Anderson struggle to help the citizens seek shelter; Emily tries to alert the deaf Bonnie that the new visitors are criminals. She also manages to sneak outside the Richmond house in order to send a message to Jericho, via the cruiser’s radio.
After watching this episode, it occurred to me that the first three episodes of “JERICHO” might have been a three-part story depicting Jericho’s initial reactions to the Denver bombing and its aftermath. I came to this conclusion after noticing that “Fallout” ended the story arc about the escaped prisoners, but failed to do the same for the “radioactive rain” story arc. The episode ended with the prisoners dead, but the citizens of Jericho inside shelters, basements and in the case for many, a salt mine. Not only did the rain continue to fall, but one of the community’s citizens, Stanley Richardson, was no where to be found. Also, a new story arc regarding Mayor Johnston Green’s illness began in this episode. And this story arc will have far reaching impact on the series that will last into Season Two. I now have the deepest suspicion that the series’ creators must have planned their story with greater detail than I had originally imagined.
Another aspect of “Fallout” that I found particularly curious was that it seemed like a mixture of a television crime drama and a disaster movie. In fact, I was hard put to see the connection between the escaped convicts story arc and the plot regarding the nuclear fallout rain. The episode ended before the two story arcs could really mesh together. Not even Jake Green’s rush from the salt mine shelter to the Richmond farm, following Emily’s radio message, could really bridge the two stories. I think the reason is that none of the characters involved in the plot regarding the escaped convicts – especially Emily Sullivan and Bonnie Richmond – had no real knowledge of the approaching rain storm possibly containing a nuclear fallout. In fact, the two women will learn of the fallout in the next episode, thanks to Jake. Perhaps this is why it is best to view “Fallout” as a second chapter in the story arc about the initial response to the bombings, instead of a stand alone episode. However, despite my acceptance that “Fallout” might not be a stand alone episode, I do have one major complaint about it. In one scene, Emily found two Jericho deputy sheriffs – Jimmy Taylor and Bill Kohler – gagged, bound and in their underwear inside the police cruiser’s trunk. If these same two convicts were willing to murder the sheriff and one of the deputies, why did they refrain from killing Jimmy and Bill? I never understood this, especially after they forced the two deputies to hand over their uniforms.
Although I could not seriously consider “Fallout” as a stand alone episode, I must admit that I still found it fascinating to watch. I have to credit Stephen Chbosky for writing a very taut episode. Between the danger surrounding the two escaped convicts and Jericho’s citizens to seek shelter from a potentially dangerous rain storm, the episode was filled with tension, action and drama. I would not consider it particularly memorable or original if it had not been for that last scene. This episode marked the first episode that featured Robert Hawkins’ new home and family – wife Darcy and young son Samuel. His daughter Allison appeared in the following episode. More importantly, the episode also featured the first hint that he knew the real truth behind the bombings. One scene featured him inside the sheriff’s station, using a ham radio to receive information unknown to the audience. By the end of the episode, the audience learned what Robert knew – namely some of other U.S. locations that suffered a nuclear blast.
I certainly have no complaints about the performances in “Fallout”. Skeet Ulrich continued his exuberant performance as lead character Jake Green. And Lennie James proved to be just as unfathomable as the mysterious Robert Hawkins. The episode also featured excellent work from Bob Stephenson, Richard Speight Jr., Gerald McRaney, Beth Grant, Pamela Reed, Michael Gaston, Sprague Grayden, Shoshannah Stern, Clare Carey and the two actors that portrayed the convicts – Jonno Roberts and Aaron Hendry. The episode also featured the first appearances of April D. Parker as Darcy Hawkins and Darby Stanchfield as April Green, Jake’s sister-in-law. Like the others, they gave solid performances. But there were four performances that really impressed me. Two of them came from Erik Knudsen and Candace Bailey as teenage outcast Dale Turner and rich girl Skylar Stevens. The two actors did an excellent job in setting up the emotional and complex relationship between the superficially mismatched pair. Kenneth Mitchell, who portrayed Jake’s younger brother Eric Green, shined in one particular scene in which the mayor’s younger son resorted to scare tactics to convince a group of stubborn beer guzzlers at the local tavern to seek shelter from the radioactive rain. But the woman of the hour proved to be Ashley Scott, who did a marvelous job in conveying the ordeal that Emily Sullivan endured in this episode. I was impressed at how she managed to dominate the episode without resorting to any theatrical acting.
If I must be honest, I found this episode’s handling of the two deputy sheriffs’ fates rather illogical. And it is obvious that “Fallout” cannot really hold up as a stand alone episode. But thanks to Stephen Chbosky’s transcript, Jon Turteltaub’ taut direction and a standout performance by Ashley Scott, “Fallout” proved to be an interesting episode filled with tension, solid action and good drama.
Filed under: Essay | Tagged: alicia coppola, april d. parker, ashley scott, clare carey, darby stanchfield, gerald mcraney, jericho, jon turteltaub, kenneth mitchell, lennie james, michael gaston, pamela reed, politics, post-apocalypse, richard speight jr., skeet ulrich, television | Leave a comment »